High-flying Rebels still have to do 'a planet of work', insists Counihan
Cork may be the country's form side but Conor Counihan certainly couldn't be accused of over-hyping his side's early-season achievements.
The Rebels manager sounded as though he was analysing a defeat after his side's one-point win over Derry at Celtic Park on Saturday night. Maybe it was because the Rebels had to hang on at the end of game where goals from John Hayes and Fintan Goold blasted them into an early lead, but downbeat didn't do justice to Counihan's post-match assessment of his players' performance. "I don't think too many fellas came out happy with their performance. In some ways that's a positive, because people know they have to work that bit harder," he said.
Of particular annoyance to Counihan was the amount of possession his team turned over through the course of the game.
"It can be very hard with the amount of men teams get behind the ball; when you have 24 men within 50 yards of goal, it can be tough to break down but there were still some situations where I was unhappy about kicking the ball away," he said.
Even when assessing the prospect of a league final place, Counhian still declared himself dissatisfied with the inconsistency of his side, who have won five from six in the top flight.
"It would be a big bonus to get to a final -- we went through 31 players which is a positive. But I'd disappointed with the consistency element of our performances, though that's maybe down to chopping and changing," he said.
"We've a planet of work to do, we're under no illusions about that -- teams like Derry will be much sharper come the Championship," he said.
Counihan's low-key review of his team's display no doubt was due to the fact Cork were almost reeled in by Damien Cassidy's men after initially threatening to blow them away.
A typically audacious Eoin Bradley point saw Derry open the scoring but the home team's already shaken confidence sustained two massive blows in the opening five minutes.
First Hayes drilled home a penalty following Fergal Doherty's foul on Derek Kavanagh, and the Derry net was bulging again when Goold fired past Barry Gillis after Paul Kerrigan's searing run.
Derry initially responded in fine fashion, with Paddy Bradley pointing from wide on the left to spark a string of scores. Michael Bateson, Bradley twice more, Charlie Kielt, Eoin Bradley and Doherty added points to put the Oak Leafers 0-8 to 2-1 ahead on 28 minutes.
Falling behind seem to sting Cork back into action and they finished the half with a flourish as Aidan Walsh, Daniel Goulding, Paddy Kelly and Kerrigan pointed to put them 2-5 to 0-8 ahead at the break.
Two Paddy Bradley frees gave Derry hope early in the second half but, with Kerrigan running the home back-line, Cork responded with points from Kerrigan and Goold. Bradley's third point of the half signalled Derry's continued resistance, but a Goold free and a Nicholas O'Leary point stretched the lead to 2-9 to 0-11.
Derry battled manfully to the end and scores from Joe Diver, Raymond Wilkinson and a Bradley free closed the gap to a point, but Kielt and Mark Lynch were off target with late efforts from long range as Cork hung on for a win to leave Derry contemplating life in Division 2.
Scorers -- Cork: F Goold 1-1, J Hayes 1-0 (1-0 pen), D Goulding 0-3 (0-3f), P Kerrigan 0-2, N O'Leary, P Kelly, A Walsh 0-1 each. Derry: P Bradley 0-7 (0-4f), E Bradley 0-2, M Bateson, F Doherty, J Diver, C Kielt, R Wilkinson 0-1 each.
Cork -- P O'Shea, R Carey, E Cadogan, E Cotter; P Kissane, M Shields, N O'Leary; A O'Connor, D Kavanagh; F Goold, J Hayes, P Kelly; D Goulding, F Lynch, P Kerrigan. Subs: A Walsh for E Cotter (25), J O'Sullivan for Walsh (40), C Sheehan for Hayes (45), S Kiely for Walsh (55).
Derry -- B Gillis; M Craig, K McGuckin, D McBride; G O'Kane, B McGuigan, M Bateson; F Doherty, J Diver; E Bradley, B McGoldrick, C Kielt; J Kielt, P Bradley, M Lynch. Subs: R Wilkinson for J Kielt (h/t), S L McGoldrick for Bateson (44), Patsy Bradley for B McGoldrick (50), B Og McAlary for McGuigan (55).
Ref -- Martin Duffy (Sligo).